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Photography Question 
Scott L. Burnett

Prom Photography

I need some help with prom portraits. I haven't done many portraits. What kinds of settings (backgrounds) should I shoot in? What film should I use? I was thinking of going for late-day time to shoot nice lighting. I have no lighting equipment other than the sun and a built-in flash on my Rebel T2.

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3/23/2006 8:29:44 AM

Angela K. Wittmer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2003
  Most proms already have a backdrop made to go along with theme of the prom. Are you going indoors or outdoors? Are you the official photographer of the whole prom? Or are you taking candids of the couples before the prom starts? I did some prom shots the last few years, but they were before the actual event, and I did them outside by a golf course and in a park setting. Most proms have the "official" backdrop all couples are photographed by but it is inside. If this is the case, you will need more than the flash on your camera to get the shots that you want. Let us know all the specifics and we will be glad to help!

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3/23/2006 9:06:07 AM

Scott L. Burnett   I am not going to the actual prom. I was just going to get together with one couple (they are my friends) and do some shots, probably outside.

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3/23/2006 9:10:41 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  I'm doing the same thing for a senior ball in June, getting the couples together before they head off for some pics. Outdoor pics are great: use what is around naturally - trees, open fields for great blurred backgrounds, fences, gardens, whatever. Do you get to pick the location? I'm going to be limited to the yard at the house where they're meeting. In early evening like that, you shouldn't have to worry too much about not having light equipment - you should have good natural light. Keep the sun to your back, and if it's really sunny. put them in the shade to avoid harsh shadows.

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3/23/2006 9:31:23 AM

Michael  C. Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/19/2005
  Hi there! Whatever you're planning to shoot, the biggest favor you can do yourself is to go to the location in advance, at the same time of day as your shoot will be, and sort out the problems beforehand.
Look out for distracting backgrounds, including unwanted glare (sometimes even traffic in the distance) and mark out specific spots to be shooting from. Write these down and number them. Plan as many shots in advance, make exposures of the space in advance, then look at the results.
You can do anything if you plan in advance. If you don't plan in advance, something is bound to go wrong.
I'd recommend taking light meter readings, either with the camera or a hand-held meter. Pick your lenses in advance for each shot.
"Luck favors the well-prepared".
Have fun!

- mcb

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3/28/2006 4:49:44 PM

Scott L. Burnett   well it was my friends backyard, and I have been there before, but that is good advice. I will post the pictures in my gallery tomorrow, cause I am getting them developed today

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3/29/2006 6:05:16 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  Cool, looking forward to seeing them. Post a note here when they're loaded so I know to check your gallery!

How do you feel it went?

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3/29/2006 6:32:56 AM

Scott L. Burnett   well the girl was a little uncomfortable at first but I took a few funny shots and a couple candids and she loosened up a bit, but I think I took some good ones.

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3/29/2006 7:49:11 AM

Scott L. Burnett   they are posted in my gallery, I hope you like them =)

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3/29/2006 7:34:03 PM

Debbie Del Tejo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/30/2005
  My only comment is that they look more like brother and sister....AND my own rule is NO hands FOLDED over the crotch area...this is my #1 nono. I liked the one of them having told more of a story and showed them having fun as opposed to just standing there. For a first time though you did good.

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3/30/2006 6:11:42 AM

Scott L. Burnett   why is hands folder over the crotch area a #1 nono? I am not trying to justify this, I just want to learn.

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3/30/2006 7:28:55 AM

Scott L. Burnett   also, what are some good alternatives to the hands folded over the crotch area?

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3/30/2006 7:29:53 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  The small thumbnail pics dont them justice, the full size versions were nice! You did capture some nice expressions on their face, that's what I liked the best.

You can see they are a little uncomfortable (her especially, like you said) but all in all I think you did a nice job. I'm sure they'll be happy with them.

In Happy Day I would've like to see her do something different with her arms. Use the banister in some way. I like what he's doing in that one. I know when a subject isn't comfortable, it's hard to get them to cooperate... I'll go right over & demonstrate what I want to see from them if I have to, soemtimes that helps.

Hands over the crotch- well, it sort of brings attention there is all.

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3/30/2006 9:36:37 AM

Michael  C. Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/19/2005
  Re reply from Denyse L., I agree that hands over the crotch draws attention to that area.

It also makes your subject look like little kids who have to go pee.

Re how to position arms and legs, that's a really good question. When I was starting out, I didn't know what to do with a model's hands, feet, arms, etc. but I found a book on, don't laugh, ballet, very helpful. You see, in ballet, the student is always told which foot has the weight on it, and which foot is free to move. Unless you're in mid-air, one of your feet can't move, because you're standing on it.

However: if you tell your model, "Put your right foot forward, turn it a bit like so, great, now put your weight on it and swing the other leg in behind it like this..." they'll grasp the idea very readily and I found, personally, that this puts the model at ease. It makes the "how do I pose" issue readily understandable; and you have to build a pose from the ground up.
Having taken tens of thousands of graduation portraits, wedding portraits, prom photos, etc I have learned that if the model's feet aren't comfortably and correctly placed, nothing else will work.
Look at good sculpture of the whole figure. Notice where the weight, or mass, is placed.
So the question with the hands becomes, really, what role do the hands play?

And in our own common experience, the hands express, point out, hold, caress, strengthen, etc. so it really matters what your subjects' hands are doing.

If I may borrow from the biography of Michelangelo, written by Irving Stone, it may help. Pope Julius II is inspecting a sketch of a proposed sculpture of himself for his tomb.
"Julius was pleased..then he stopped in front of the statue, looked perplexedly at his right hand, which was raised in a haughty, almost violent gesture.
"Buonorotti, does this hand intend to bless or to curse?
"Michelangelo had to improvise, for this was the Pope's favourite gesture while sitting on his throne..
"The right lifted, Holy Father, bids the Bolognese be obedient even though you are in Rome."
"And the left hand. What shall it hold?"
"A book?" asked Michelangelo.
"A book?" cried the Pope scornfully. "A sword! I am no scholar. A sword!"
"Michelangelo winced. 'Could the Holy Father perhaps be holding in his left hand th keys to the new St. Peter's?'
"Bravissimo! We must extract large sums from every church for the building, and the symbol of keys will help us."

True in 1475, true also in 2006.

Be a maniac about your own work with the camera. Be obsessive about the details. Every single dot on the photograph matters.

Keep shooting! And good luck.

- Michael

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3/30/2006 11:27:01 AM

Debbie Del Tejo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/30/2005
  Great answer Michael...BRAVO!!!

Also, engaging (ESPECIALLY WITH TEENS) about music, movies, tv shows etc...while preparing helps them relaz a bit. Don't forget to pay a complement to a woman about eyes, clothes, hair etc...she will immediatly FEEL better about herself and be a little more confident. I love to SELL my portraits before I even take them and the subject has not looked at the final result, and this can be done by building confidence and being really EXCITED with every single subject you photograph. FIND BEAUTY IN EVERYONE!!! And l;ike Michael said "BE A MANIAC ABOUT YOUR OWN WORK."

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3/30/2006 11:35:32 AM

Scott L. Burnett   this is good

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3/30/2006 7:43:35 PM

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